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Helping Solve COVID-19 Sleep Issues Leads to Happier, More Productive Employees | SilverCloud Health


This month is a good time to delve into sleep issues of employees, with two events highlighting the importance of sleep:

  • In the U.S, Daylight Savings Time began on March 14. Losing this hour not only throws off our schedules but can wreak havoc on our sleep.
  • World Sleep Day takes place on March 19. This day offers all of us a chance to learn more about the importance of sleep to a happy and healthy life.

Sleep and COVID-19

While sleep issues are an ongoing issue for many, the pandemic has exacerbated the problem.

A September 2020 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine confirms this: 25% of respondents reported that their sleep quality was worse. Likely culprits to a good night’s sleep included personal financial concerns, stress and worry over caregiving, childcare and virtual schooling, social isolation, and other COVID-19 concerns.

Insomnia is increasing, too. It’s so prevalent that there’s even a COVID-19-related term for it: “coronasomnia.” According to a UC Davis Health release, it’s a very real issue.
“It’s a problem everywhere, across all age groups,” said Angela Drake, a UC Davis Health clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, who has treated sleep disorders and is trained in managing insomnia without medications. “Insomnia was a problem before COVID-19,” she continues. “Now, from what we know anecdotally, the increase is enormous.”

The Link Between Sleep and Mental Health

A large body of research shows the two-way connection between sleep problems and mental health. A good example is this Harvard review of studies, concluding that adults with sleep issues are more likely to develop anxiety and depression, and sleep problems are common in patients with anxiety and depression.

The Harvard review concluded:

  • Sleep issues are more likely to affect patients with mental health issues than people in the general population.
  • Sleep challenges may increase the risk of developing mental health issues.
  • Sleep problems that are treated may help mitigate mental health issues.

There is a strong link between stress and sleep, as well. Poor quality sleep can lead to increased stress, and stress can lead to insufficient sleep duration and quality.

The Link Between Employee Sleep Issues and Your Company’s Bottom Line

Sleep issues not only affect people at home; they affect your employees at work. In addition to the effect on mental health, your employees’ sleep problems affect their productivity and your company’s bottom line.

Think back to the last time you tossed and turned and then worked the next day. You probably weren’t operating at your highest level. Neither are your employees with sleep issues.

“Poor sleep affects the brain and subsequent behaviors in many ways,” says Dr. Derek Richards, Chief Science Officer at SilverCloud Health. “Even after only one night of disruptive sleep, employees can experience a reduction in learning and processing ability, attention span, creativity, and critical thinking.” Research has also shown that sleep issues lead to more worker errors, as well as an inability to take in or remember information, and reduces decision-making ability.

These statistics provide insight into the financial effect of sleep issues:

  • Rand analysis determined that chronic insufficient sleep costs the U.S. more than $410 billion annually in lost productivity due to absenteeism and employees working at a sub-optimal level.
  • A study in the journal SLEEP showed that insomnia costs the average U.S. worker 11.3 days, or $2,280 in lost productivity each year.

There are other COVID-related financial impacts as well. For example, in our recent 2021 SilverCloud Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey, 38% of respondents reported missing time at work due to COVID-related stress. For an employer with 5,000 employees, this equates to lost productivity of $120,000 per day or over $28 million per year. Learn more about COVID-related effects on employees in our 2021 Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey Report:

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How SilverCloud is Helping Employees Sleep Better

The SilverCloud clinical and research teams have long been aware of the importance of a good night’s sleep to mental health. In fact, one of our core programs helps users deal with sleep challenges.

SilverCloud’s “Space from Insomnia and Sleep Issues” module provides the following benefits to users:

  • Develop a good sleep cycle and healthy sleep habits
  • Create a time for bed routine to promote restorative sleep
  • Develop a good sleep/wake association with the bedroom and sleeping
  • Learn evidence-based techniques such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Sleep Restriction

Two additional SilverCloud programs have been created in the last year to deal with COVID-related challenges, including sleep issues.

The first is “Challenging Times,” part of a broad COVID-19 program that supports users dealing with pandemic-related anxiety, depression, stress, sleep issues, and more.

The second is “Money Worries,” helping users experiencing financial difficulties, including those brought on by COVID-19. Financial issues are one of the factors that lead to poor quality sleep.

Help Employees Sleep Better Now

Consider sharing these World Sleep Society tips for healthy sleep:

  1. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.

  2. Limit naps to no more than 45 minutes during the day.

  3. Abstain from caffeine in food and drinks six hours before bedtime.

  4. Drink in moderation four hours before bedtime, and do not smoke.

  5. Eat a light snack before bed if you’re hungry. Avoid sugary, spicy, or heavy foods four hours before you go to sleep.

  6. Exercise, but not right before bed.

  7. Choose comfortable bedding.

  8. Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature or sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.

  9. Eliminate light and distracting noise.

  10. Use the bedroom for sleep, not for work or recreation.

Moving Forward

All of the SilverCloud programs designed to help employees sleep better are part of our leading digital Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) platform.

Learn more about the benefits of SilverCloud Health’s digital CBT sleep program compared to using medication and how clients have benefited.

Helping your employees sleep better will help them become happier and more productive. That should help you sleep better, too!

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